Thomas Merton Collection
The Catholic National Library holds a small collection of books and journals relating to the American Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. This reference collection belongs to the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland and is housed separately from the main Library holdings.
There are just over 100 books in the collection. These are books by and about Merton. There are two journals: The Thomas Merton Journal published by the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland; and The Merton Seasonal published by the International Thomas Merton Society and the Thomas Merton Center of Bellarmine University.
Many of the books in this collection are also held by the Library - these are available for loan.
Thomas Merton was born in France in 1915 where his New Zealand father was an artist. From there he was to go to England and then to America (the home of his mother) and eventually to Columbia University in New York. After a period of unrest and inner searching Merton became a Catholic in 1938. In 1941 he entered the Cistercian monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani near Louisville in Kentucky where he would be known as Fr Louis. He was to remain here until the end of his life.
In 1948 Merton published, to much acclaim, his autobiography "The Seven Storey Mountain" (published in Britain as "Elected Silence"). Over the next 30 years there followed more than 50 books on monastic life, books on meditations, writings on war and social justice, poetry. During the last decade of his life there appeared a number of books dealing with the Eastern religious traditions.
Always drawn to the solitary life, Thomas Merton was to spend his later years living in a hermitage near to his monastery.
In 1968 he was given permission by his abbot to visit the Far East to attend a meeting of Benedictine and Cistercian abbots in Bangkok. It was there that he was to die after a tragic accident, aged 53.
Thomas Merton was buried at Gethsemani, his monastic home.